MOSCOW: Around 80,000 Russians are stranded in Egypt after the Kremlin grounded all flights to the country following the crash of a Russian airliner in the Sinai Peninsula, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the flight suspension on Friday, a possible sign that Russia is attaching more credence to the theory that a bomb brought down the Russian passenger jet in Egypt a week ago, killing all 224 people on board.
“Today the number of tourists in Egypt was clarified, it is around 80,000,” RIA news agency quoted Dvorkovich as saying.
“The Egyptian military has taken control of the operation to put passengers on flights,” he added.
Russia will be wanting to avoid the chaotic scenes endured by thousands of British holidaymakers stuck in Red Sea resorts after Egypt slashed the number of flights it would allow to take them home.
Oleg Safonov, head of Russian state tourism agency Rostourism, said 1,200 Russian tourists had returned home and future flights would be leaving without hold luggage.
“A planned process to evacuate tourists will be executed,” Russian news agencies quoted Safonov as saying. “Planes will arrive empty and be boarded by those tourists who should return home on that date.”
The Russian Travel Industry Union said nearly all Russian tourists due to visit Egypt in the coming days had agreed to fly to Turkey instead.
“In the near future, flights which should have flown to Egypt are being redirected to Antalya,” the Interfax news agency quoted union spokeswoman Irina Turina as saying. “Practically all tourists have agreed with this.”